Sous Vide: Pan-Fried Chicken–Dark Meat

Legs and thighs are unfairly discriminated against in favor of white meat and wings. Sous vide takes advantage of the competitive pricing.


Chicken, 4 legs and 4 thighs.
Powdered egg whites, 4 Tablespoons.
Powdered buttermilk, 2 Tablespoons.
Flour, 0.5 cups/90 g.
Seasoning mix, or your personal preference, about 2 Tablespoons.
Water, 4 oz/120 ml.

Vegetable oil for frying, approximately 0.5 cup/120 ml.

Easy Peasy Chicken Crust:
Flour, 2 cups
Shortening or vegetable oil, 2 oz/60 g.
1 Tablespoon baking powder.
2 teaspoons baking soda.
1 teaspoon salt.
1 teaspoon sugar.





Equipment requirements
Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Heat rated container.
Sous vide racks.
Heat rated sous vide bags.
Kitchenaid type mixer or food processor.
Flat bottomed skillet, approximately 12″/30 cm. and 3″/90 mm deep.
Infrared and/or probe thermometer.


Above: Lipavi C15 container, N15 polycarbonate racks. Lipavi C15L-UNIR lid.

Legs and thighs have the same cooking times and temperatures. Sometimes my batch exceeds the size of my container. Either way, Lipavi racks, containers and lids are the way to assure efficient circulation of water and heat retention!

Actual prep time, 90 minutes.
Serves 2+
Level of difficulty 2.75


Vacuum seal the chicken and process at 132 F/56 C for a minimum of 6 hours.

This process will pasteurize and preserve the chicken. You can pack several pieces in the same bag, but the contents must be confined to one layer only for uniform processing and safety purposes. There are advantages to packing each piece of chicken in a separate bag. Individually packaged pieces are easier and faster to chill. They are also easier to organize in the refrigerator. If you just want to fry one piece of chicken at a time, you can do so without exposing the rest of the batch to the elements–this extends shelf life!

After the time has elapsed remove the bags of chicken from the bath and submerge in iced/tap water until they achieve 70 F/21 C–about half an hour. Refrigerate to 40 F/4 C–this is necessary to assure food safety. As long as the bags are not opened, the chicken can be kept refrigerated in this state for at least two weeks.

Day of service:

Mix all the ingredients in the crust recipe using a Kitchenaid type mixer with paddle or food processor–or a fork in a bowl.

Gather your chicken–as many or as few pieces as you want to fry.

Add 4 Tablespoons powdered egg whites, 2 Tablespoons powdered buttermilk, half a cup/90 g flour, 2 Tablespoons seasoning mix and 4 oz/120 ml of water.

Mix well with gloved hands. It may seem dry at first, but eventually all the ingredients will merge. Spread half of the easy peasy breading mixture out on a sheet pan.

Arrange the chicken on the breading mixture.

Sprinkle the other half of the breading mix. Make sure there is space between the pieces. Shake the pan a bit to complete the coating process. Allow to rest for half an hour to give the breading time to attach itself to the surface (and not your fingers). Remove the chicken from the breading mixture and tap lightly to remove excess. Stage onto parchment. Save the breading mixture in the refrigerator if desired.

Add enough oil to the pan to fully cover the bottom. “Fried” chicken is half way between sautéed and deep fried. Heat the oil to 250 F/121 C.

Carefully add the chicken one piece at a time–tongs make this safer. Do not crowd the pan–at least 1″/2.5 cm between each piece. Consider that if you add them in a hurry, you will be forced to remove them in a hurry. If possible, use an infrared thermometer to maintain a consistent temperature in the pan.

Watch the edges to gauge the level of browning. You can actually see the color change without flipping the chicken. Over-handling the chicken while it’s cooking may loosen the breading. I aspire to flipping the chicken only once, but this is a goal, not a necessity.

Flipping the well browned pieces will create a little more space, so you can slowly add more chicken to the pan.

Eventually, you may get all the pieces in the pan–if the pan is big enough. This pan is 12″/30 cm. Use a probe thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is at least 140 F/60 C.

Remove the chicken to a screen (or paper towel) to drain. If it cools, you can achieve remarkably good results by staging it into a 35- F/176 C oven until the internal temperature returns to 140 F/60. It’s great cold, too.

The lowly thigh no more. You’re going to have to find something else for the kids to eat. Suddenly, drumsticks have flair.

Norm King


Why would one part of the chicken be more expensive/desirable than another? The laws of supply/demand get some credit/blame. The dietary rationale that chicken breasts are better for you is debatable. If so, why do the kids get the drumsticks? Wings cost even more than the breasts. This would all be very ironic from the chicken's point of view if poultry had discernible opinions.

Such as it is, getting a crispy, lacy crust on hindquarters without drying them out is a lot easier than on breasts. Sous vide pasteurizes the chicken while preserving the moisture content. The subsequent coating process creates the "finger licking" crust and texture that fast food chains build their empires on.

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